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Israel Baline Inspires Generations
WeatherViolet from United States
21 March 2010
Harry Smith narrates this heart-warming two-hour double-episode account
of the life and career of Israel Baline, in a presentation debuting on
Christmas evening, December 25, 2001.
By way of a pleasant variation from the usual, this begins in 1925,
several years after a now-37-year-old Israel Baline becomes songwriter
Irving Berlin, with newspaper headlines reporting his "scandalous"
relationship with New York City Catholic socialite Ellin Mackay, with
dozens of newspapers of the day investigating his impoverished past as
one of six children born to an impoverished Russian Jewish immigrant
family in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Withdrawing from school with a third-grade education, Israel works odd
jobs, as newspaper carrier, helping the family to make ends meet. At
the tender age of 13, Israel loses his father and must now roam the
streets, upon which he takes a position as a singing waiter at the
Relham Café, where he is appreciated for striking a vulgar twist to
But when a musician from a rival nightclub publishes a song which
generates a musical craze, Israel's employer expects the same from his
waiters, and so Israel, by necessity, must pen his first song, "Marie
from Sunny Italy" (1907).
In 1911, Ragtime music sweeps the nation, to the disdain of adults who
object to the disgrace of a younger generation who rebel along with the
movement. Israel bridges the generations by creating a sensitive number
to quell the craze, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911), which becomes
the first major hit for the songwriter who now goes by the name of
Soon, Irving marries the sister, Dorothy, of his songwriting partner,
Ray Goetz, and they sail to Cuba for their 1912 honeymoon, where
Dorothy contracts Typhoid Fever and passes a few months later. Ray
convinces Irving to turn his grieve into a song, which becomes another
hit, "When I Lost You" (1912).
After becoming a successful songwriter, Irving is drafted into the Army
for service during World War I, in 1918. Because he has worked nights
for many years by this time, he cannot adjust to early morning Revile,
and pens the song "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" (1918),
which leads to the Army's granting Irving the honor of assembling, and
performing a musical review, instead of having to rise early.
Returning to Broadway after his discharge, Irving meets Ellin Mackay,
whose stern wealthy father, Clarence, strongly objects to her
association with him, leading to a heavily-published scandal, which
rocks their world from the States to Europe.
Over the years, Irving is affected by the Stock Market crash of 1929,
as he also faces challenges on Broadway and in Hollywood during the
advent of Talkies, which leads the way to his return to Tinseltown on
his own terms, before his compelling service of music and patriotism
during the WWII years.
He will go on to break many popular records with his more than 1,000
songs, at least 550 of which are published, 282 reaching "Your Hit
Parade's" Top-10, and 35 reaching Number-1, with four songs from "Top
Hat" in the Top-5 for a period in 1935.
This follows Irving's life through his marriages with Dorothy Goetz
(Feb-July, 1912) and with Ellin Mackay (1926-88), with whom he welcomes
three daughters and a son, whom they lose in infancy at three-weeks of
age, one Christmas morning.
This episode includes discussions of many stories behind some of
Irving's many popular hit songs, which include "Marie from Sunny Italy"
(1907), "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911), "When I Lost You" (1912), "A
Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" (1915), "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the
Morning" (1918), "All by Myself" (1921), "All Alone" (1924), "What'll I
Do?" (1924), "Always" (1925), "Blue Skies" (1926), "Puttin' on the
Ritz" (1930), "Heat Wave" (1933), "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails"
(1935), "Cheek to Cheek" (1935), "No Strings" (1935), "Easter Parade"
(revised, 1938), "God Bless America" (revised, 1942), "White Christmas"
(1942), "There's No Business Like Show Business" (1946) and "Say It
With Music" (revised, 1950).
Broadway cast photographs enhance song performance clips from "Watch
Your Step" (1914), "Yip! Yip! Yaphank" (1918), "Ziegfeld Follies"
(1919), "Music Box Revue" (1921), "As Thousands Cheer" (1933), "This Is
the Army" (1942), "Annie Get Your Gun" (1946) and "Call Me Madam"
Interview Guests for this episode consist of daughters, Mary Ellin
Barrett, Linda Louise Emmett and Elizabeth Irving Peters, friends Anna
Crouse, Robert Kimball and David and Helen Brown, Actress Bernadette
Peters, Actors Ross Elliott and Mandy Patinkin, Performers Susannah
McCorkle and Bobby Short, Stage Manager Alan Anderson, Musical
Historian Miles Kreuger, and Biographer Philip Furia.
Archive footage includes Irving Berlin with stars Al Jolson, Eddie
Cantor, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Bebe Daniels, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby,
Kate Smith, Ethel Merman, George Murphy and others in speaking/singing
parts, and Vernon and Irene Castle, Edward VIII the Prince of Wales,
Ginger Rogers, Marjorie Reynolds, Ronald Reagan and others in
Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Irving's compositions through
the years, with scenes from "The Jazz Singer (1927), "Puttin' on the
Ritz" (1930), "Reaching for the Moon" (1930), "Top Hat" (1935),
"Holiday Inn" (1942), "This Is the Army" (1943), "Blue Skies" (1946)
and "Call Me Madam" (1953).
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